hackNY goes to Brown University

In this post 2011 hackNY Fellow Aditya Mukerjee describes hackNY’s visit to Brown with Peter Bell.

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of traveling with hackNY’s own Hacker/Evangelist Peter Bell on the second stop of the hackNY College Tour: Brown University. The trip was organized with the help of hackNY ’12 alum Varun Singh (Venmo).

When we got to Brown, we were greeted by a plethora of hacker food (pizza) and a sizeable crowd of Brown students eager to hear Peter’s talk: ‘How to Build an Awesome Career in Software Development’.

I could hardly imagine a more qualified person to give a talk on this topic – for those of you who haven’t yet had a chance to meet Peter, he’s had an incredible career himself as a developer (most recently with Ruby/Rails and Node.js), entrepreneur, technologist (CTO of General Assembly), and community figure (founder of CTO School and the Node.js NYC Meetup).

In a world where resumes and transcripts are increasingly being replaced with open-source projects and Github profiles, Peter presented a modern, updated perspective on building a non-linear career in this non-linear industry. As Peter explained, building a career in software development requires building a skillset that’s dynamic, not static. In other words, success is a process, not a goal – a succesful developer will keep refreshing their skills and updating their knowledge continuously, regardless of their current job situation.

While there is no ideal skillset, there is an ideal ‘set of skillsets’ – the super-skillset, if you’ll forgive the pun. A developer should seek to maintain at least a facile understading of a number of current technologies, while also choosing an area in which to develop a deeper understanding as well. By creating a ‘T-shaped’ skillset, the proactive developer can carve out their own niche, while still remaining a versatile developer at a rapidly-changing startup.

One of Peter’s best suggestions was ‘promiscuous pairing’ – which is not quite as risque as it sounds! The easiest way to learn quickly from other people is to pair program with them, and by pairing with other developers at every possible chance, you learn the best practices of programming that much more quickly.

Incidentally, in my case, hackNY provided me with the ideal environment to shape my experiences in this manner. Each class is filled with students with a diverse range of backgrounds and areas of expertise, which makes it easy to find other excited developers to practice and learn with. Most of the fellows take advantage of this opportunity in some way over the course of the summer, whether through fellow-run workshops on the topic of their interest, or by working with other fellows on projects that they developed over the course of the summer.

After Brown, Peter and I headed to my alma mater – Columbia – for the next step of the hackNY college tour. Coming up soon: University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University!